Do you want to know what is the most common question I get asked about traveling? “When is the best time to visit (chosen destination)?” The answer is whenever you are able to go, that’s the best time! However, if you do have a choice of dates, or if you get lucky and hit the jackpot because your trip coincides with the most popular festivals or celebrations then that is without a doubt the best time to go.
And that is exactly what happened to my family and me when we visited St. Augustine, Florida in mid December and found ourselves smack dab in the middle of the Festival of Lights annual celebration.
What is the Festival of Lights all About Anyway?
The Festival of Lights in St. Augustine considered one of the top 100 events in North America, starts mid November lasting through the end of January. The festival consists of millions of white lights that create a magical holiday atmosphere in the Nation’s oldest city, which also just recently celebrated their 500th anniversary. Aside from the lights you can find an array of fun events and activities for all ages. 2014 Nights of Lights will start to sparkle in St. Augustine on November 22 and will last until January 31, 2015.
What Makes St. Augustine Nights of Lights Festival a Treat?
- National Geographic included it on the list of their top ten places in the world to see holiday lights on display.
- The amount of lights that are displayed throughout the Historical District of St. Augustine during the festival is enormous. There are over one million!
- The tradition traces its origins back to the Spanish tradition of displaying a lighted white candle during the Christmas holidays.
- This festival is over 450 years old.
8 Things to do During the Festival and Holiday Season
1. Trolley Tours is by far the best way to explore the city, especially if you are traveling with kids. The festive staff wears Christmas gear, loud Christmas songs play and, the best part, you can enjoy the city and lights without the stress of driving yourself around.
2. Explore St. Augustine’s historical district in a horse drawn carriage that resembles the ones from the earliest days of the city.
3. Go on a night-time tour of ancient buildings and historic hotels that are led by storytellers in costumes.
4. Art walks, more suited for adults, allow you to visit over 30 galleries. This is usually during the first Friday of each month, plus they offer free holiday refreshments.
5. Concerts and more concerts. St. Augustine hosts a ton of holiday shows all around town.
6. The Christmas parade!
7. Free movie nights in the amphitheater 8. Walk around the narrow streets and sit in the parks underneath the lights. The most popular street is St. George Street. This is a must-visit for all ages.
I doubt that there is a better place to spend the holidays in Florida. Even if you can only make it for one night, you will have enough memories to last you the whole holiday season.